Currently viewing the tag: "Student Stories"
Before he wrote this fall-semester update, Pulkit asked me whether he could describe some challenges he experienced. That seemed like a great topic to me. Fletcher students work hard! And the Admissions Committee needs to ensure that every admitted student will succeed. Pulkit’s reflection captures nicely the balance that all students seek and the particular challenges faced by folks who are looking for an academic or career shift.
As I sat down to write my last post before the end of 2017, I couldn’t fathom that I was about to finish three semesters at Fletcher. Since the day I received my letter of acceptance, it has been an exciting and rewarding journey of self-discovery.
Fletcher has given me opportunities to push myself to give my best, both inside and outside of the classroom. Apart from my regular academic work, a large portion of my semester was spent working as an elected Student Council representative. As a student representative, I ensured that I was hearing and giving voice to the concerns and suggestions of the student body. I thoroughly enjoyed working with the Office of Student Affairs, other administrative offices, and other student representatives to find constructive and sustainable solutions to issues related to student life and community at Fletcher. That being said, this role had its own set of challenges — including decision making, coalition building, and receiving criticism.
The other big commitment last semester was serving as the Managing Director for Digital and External Affairs for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs. Apart from managing a team of staff editors and The Forum’s web page, along with the executive leadership, early efforts for this academic year included creating a new section of the website for student publications. The idea is to provide a platform for students to publish the stellar work they are doing in their classes, for their capstones, and otherwise. In addition, fellow Admissions blogger, Mariya, and I also facilitated a peer-to-peer learning series in partnership with the Murrow Center and Ginn Library. At Fletcher, my peers are amazingly skilled in soft and hard skills. To that effect we wanted to create learning opportunities for our fellow students and organized hands-on skill-based workshops in blogging, website design, and citations editing.
Speaking of academics, my evolving interests also drove me to take more classes in the International Law and Organizations and Diplomacy, History and Politics divisions and study a mix of Human Security and Humanitarian Studies courses.
After three semesters, I can’t help but also reflect on some of the challenges I have faced along the way, and I wanted to share some of those thoughts with readers. As I had mentioned in my first post back in November 2016, coming from a physical sciences background, it was indeed a huge step for me as I transitioned to pursue studies in social sciences. Most classes at the graduate level — at Fletcher and at Harvard — involve a large amount of reading. With four classes, it became overwhelming to finish all the readings for a week. I found myself challenged to finish my assigned homework in time, especially with all the extra-curricular activities I was involved in. This was also a big change from what I was used to in the past, as most professors require us to finish the readings before a class.
Most of the classes are also discussion-based where students debate — be it on a particular article of international law and its potential implications on the ground or on a matter of policy. One of the significant challenges I encountered was having an opinion on issues that were gray. Before starting school, I had expected that solutions to complex world problems could be black and white. Very quickly I learned that there could be multiple perspectives to and interpretations of a problem. I also realized why it was so very important to understand all sides of an argument before making conclusions, and — unlike math or physics — even if there was no conclusion or final answer, it was okay. In many of my classes I have been left with more questions than answers. As one student put it — perhaps that is what graduate school is all about, to have more questions than answers, but also to have the ability to ask the right questions.
Another element of a professional graduate program is networking. Fletcher has provided me numerous opportunities to meet and interact with illustrious alumni and important persons in the field of international relations. But it has not been easy to feel comfortable at networking — building relationships with different professors, attending conferences and reaching out to folks working in the areas of my interest. This again, was not something I was used to. With a little bit of self-encouragement and push from my peers, I try improving and being better at it.
Besides managing my time, finishing my homework and fulfilling my extra-curricular roles, these are interesting challenges to have and to look forward to. Overall, in retrospect, from taking classes across different disciplines with different professors, to learning about and from my classmates, and participating in activities on and off campus, my time at Fletcher has been such a joy and a life-altering experience.
Today we’ll hear from Gary, our Student Stories blogger in the PhD program, who will return to the U.S. Marine Corps after he completes his Fletcher studies. Though I’ve often watched as a parade of limousines and police cars escort a dignitary to Fletcher, I had never thought about the behind-the-scenes efforts to make the visit happen, and I’ve learned something from Gary’s post!
One of the great benefits of being a student at Fletcher is the visits of many senior officials and policymakers. This includes not only leaders from the diplomatic, political, and business realms but also senior military leaders. For my service, the U.S. Marine Corps, the fall semester saw a “bumper crop” of such visits. During October and November, the International Security Studies Program (ISSP) hosted the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Fletcher alumnus General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr. (the senior uniformed officer in the entire U.S. Armed Forces); the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Robert Neller (the senior officer in my service); and Lieutenant General David Berger, the commander of the largest field command in the service, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific. Between them, these three officers brought more than 120 years of combined service in the Marine Corps to the table. However, I’m not going to talk about what they presented during their visits — in part because two of the lectures took place at ISSP luncheons, which are conducted off-the-record — but instead I’ll take a look “behind the scenes” at what goes into making a visit for one of these senior military officers happen. (The Boston Globe carried an article about General Dunford’s visit here.)
As one might expect, a great deal of coordination typically goes into a visit by a senior leader. Planning begins months in advance. ISSP mails out the official invitations. For last semester’s visits, this step took place before I even arrived on campus in September. After that, suffice it to say that there are a lot of emails exchanged and phone calls placed to work out visit itineraries, menus, locations where people can change from civilian clothes to uniforms or vice versa, and more. Sometimes the group emails a questionnaire with the questions they need answered for their planning process to move forward. If one of the senior officers is arriving via nearby Hanscom Air Force Base, then there are additional considerations involving the base protocol officer, base operations, and so on. If they arrive via Logan Airport, there is a different set of considerations. There is local coordination for security and ground transportation. For an ISSP fellow designated as the AO (“action officer”) for a visit, one of the key things to learn right away is the key contacts on the visitor’s staff — it might be more than one person.
For ISSP military fellows (who spend a year at Fletcher on a non-degree basis), coordinating these visits provides an opportunity to interact with the “brain trusts” behind the senior leaders. Depending on where they are, these groups have different names — Action Group, Staff Group, etc. — but are composed of some of the sharpest young officers in the ranks. For General Neller and General Berger, their teams consisted entirely of Marines, but General Dunford’s staff features officers from across the services and some Department of Defense civilians. These organizations house planners, subject-matter experts, advisors, and speechwriters. In addition to the planning groups, the senior military officers also have aides de camp in charge of coordinating logistics and other general-purpose matters. It can end up being a pretty large retinue of folks when all is said and done — half a dozen people, or more.
After completing their studies, Fletcher graduates in uniform can end up working in these commander’s groups, based on their developed skills in diplomacy and negotiation, oral and written communication, and statecraft. For example, the director of General Berger’s Commander’s Action Group, LtCol Sea Thomas, attended Fletcher immediately upon graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy. (He was a MALD classmate of Fletcher Professor Rocky Weitz!) On General Dunford’s Chairman’s Action Group, LtCol Todd Manyx (ISSP Commandant of the Marine Corps Fellow in 2007-08) serves as a special assistant, and Army COL Abigail Linnington, who holds a Ph.D. from Fletcher (2013), is the director of the organization. From the outside looking in, these groups appear to do meaningful, relevant work directly for senior leaders whose voices count.
It was a great professional honor for me to meet and interact with these three senior Marine Corps leaders. It is not all that often that a mid-grade officer such as me has the chance to meet top leaders. I had served with General Berger previously in Fallujah, Iraq in 2005, so it was great to catch up with him now that he has ascended to near the pinnacle of his profession. During General Dunford’s visit, Professor Hess did me the great honor of providing an introduction to the general, and we spoke briefly, comparing our experiences as Marine Corps fellows at Fletcher. However, the highlight for me was riding with General Neller from the airport to Fletcher, ostensibly as the “on-site lead,” bringing the senior officer up to speed on the “lay of the land” before he steps out of the vehicle and begins the luncheon event. That did happen, but I also had the chance to chat with my service’s top officer about family, hopes for future assignments, and challenges and opportunities for the Corps. That’s not something that happens every day — except maybe at Fletcher!
When high-level visits happen, things can get pretty exciting. You must remain flexible when things change, sometimes even as the visit is already in progress, such as if a flight is delayed and you need to adjust the agenda in real time dynamically. But once the visits end, things return to normal fairly quickly. Then it’s back to classes — until the next visit!
Continuing to catch up with our student bloggers following the fall semester, today we’ll hear from Adi, who is now one semester from completing the MIB program.
Now that I have officially finished the fall semester, I can reflect on what happened, while also looking ahead to my final semester at Fletcher. What was particularly different compared to my first year at Fletcher was the feeling of freedom and flexibility in choosing my courses. With most of my MIB core requirements out of the way, I see way less of MIB classmates whom I saw pretty much every day last year, while meeting new students and even fellow second years whom I never met until this semester. (Surprising as that is, it does happen.) My second year is all about electives. I do have one more requirement, but I have decided to push that to my final semester. So, my fall schedule was completely of my choosing. I ended up enrolling in the Art and Science of Statecraft with Professor Drezner, Processes of International Negotiations with Professor Babbitt, Large Investment and International Project Finance with Professor Uhlmaan, and Petroleum in the Global Economy with Professor Everett. Overall, I thought it was a fantastic mix of finance, markets, politics, and hard and soft skills, with topics that complemented each other surprisingly well.
My Fields of Study at Fletcher are International Banking and Finance as well as International Political Economy (IPE). Project Finance and Petroleum both fit my IPE Field of Study, although I think even if they didn’t, I would still have taken these two courses out of curiosity and interest. Negotiations could have satisfied my DHP requirement, but I already had a DHP course, so I took the course purely out of recognition of the importance of being an exceptional negotiator in whatever professional path I end up pursuing. Statecraft was taken out of curiosity. After all, Fletcher is a school of diplomacy, and Professor Drezner is one of the better-known names not just in the school, but in his field of expertise.
In the end, the courses were a great mix. The cases discussed in Project Finance were fantastic, ranging from aluminum mines in Mozambique to stadium public financing for the Dallas Cowboys. Petroleum was definitely an eye-opener into just how deeply ingrained petroleum is in the fabric of today’s society. I may not agree with every single perspective presented in the class, especially on the topic of petroleum’s impact on climate change (understanding Professor Everett spent years at Exxon-Mobil), but it is definitely exciting to hear a well-structured and logical argument that is counter to what I am accustomed to hearing. The two projects from Negotiation gave me the opportunity to dig deep and analyze the discussions between Indonesia and Freeport, operator of the biggest goldmine in the world. Finally, in what other class but Statecraft with Professor Drezner would you have a simulation on how countries are supposed to react in the event of a zombie apocalypse?
Thus, my suggestion for future MIB students trying to figure out what to take for their electives is to take the best courses Fletcher has to offer. Obviously, try to get any required courses out the way (in the first year if possible). I would highly recommend the four courses that I took this semester, but your interests may not be the same as mine. I only suggest that you not limit yourself to business courses at Fletcher. For MIBs, our distinguishing quality compared to MBA graduates is Fletcher’s non-business courses, whether in law, security, or even gender studies. Recognizing that these are courses that reflect Fletcher expertise would translate to us being equipped with knowledge and skills that make us unique and competitive in the job market, even as we seek MBA-type positions in consulting, investment banking, or multinational corporations. Plus, I personally find it interesting to learn about something totally outside my main area of study — it enriches the learning process.
I think many Fletcher students agree that we came here wanting an education that would give us a multidisciplinary perspective. Thus, at some point in our studies, we need to take a course that is the best Fletcher has to offer, slightly disregarding whether the topic is what we intend to build a career in. I don’t plan to have a career in conflict resolution or policymaking (although never say never), but I am confident that skills from courses on negotiations and statecraft will come in handy, even if I do pursue a career in financial services as I plan to right now.
The second student blogger end-of-semester wrap-up comes from Kaitlyn, who like many of her fellow students, appreciates a busy schedule.
This first semester, especially the second half, was a whirlwind of activity. It had never felt so bizarre as when I passed in my last final exam and stepped outside the doors of Fletcher to realize there was nothing else on the day’s — or the week’s — itinerary. After four months of non-stop activity it was nice to stroll across campus in the crisp winter air and soak in the relief that everything, for now, was done. At the same time I felt restless. Having an open itinerary might be refreshing to some, but my natural mode is to be busy. Hence, as soon as exams were done: I baked chocolate cake for my classmates so we could all celebrate, finished the puzzle we’ve all been working on in the Ginn Library, and then sat down to write this blog post. The principle topic on my mind was reflection: how did I feel after one semester? What were my resolutions going into the next one?
1. It is okay to explore a lot of Fields of Study – and it’s easier than I thought.
At the beginning of the semester, surrounded by many peers who were already firmly established in their careers, it was tempting to think that I should have a very clear idea of the Fields of Study I wanted to focus on, and the specific classes I wanted to take.
And then I talked to more second years.
The advice I got from them ranged from: “don’t worry about Fields of Study — just take whatever looks interesting,” to “take one that will get you a job and one that is for fun.”
I’m too much of a planner to like the first option, but the middle ground between the two is one that suits me well: plan one, and give myself the freedom to build the second one based on what’s most interesting. There are plenty of opportunities to explore different subjects, even with only 16 credits in the MALD program. Auditing courses, attending special events, and talking to peers and professors are all ways my fellow first years and I have found to explore Fields of Study that didn’t fit in our schedules. There’s also always that one class that takes you completely by surprise – as was the case for me and Art & Science of Statecraft. I took it because it fulfilled a breadth requirement and looked the most interesting. Turns out, it was my favorite class from my first semester! I’ll be taking the follow up course in the spring. I am not sure it will be part of a Field of Study, but if my experience in education has taught me anything, it is that following my interests is the most rewarding way to go.
2. Fletcher’s community really is the best.
I cannot emphasize enough how much everyone supports each other. It is much different than undergrad; here everyone is equally passionate about their courses and equally invested in the quality of their work. My study groups worked well together for the first time in my life, and I had my first good (actually amazing) experience with a group project in “Gender, Culture, and Conflict.”
And outside classes, our community in Fletcher’s dorm has become very close knit: we organized movie nights during exams, celebrated birthdays, and organized “Blakeley chats,” where our peers could give mini-presentations about their work and their experiences. By far the high point of my semester was one of these community moments: Medford had its first snow just before finals started. And my excitement and celebration over that was exponentially more memorable and special because I could share it with my friends and fellow bloggers (shout out Akshobh and Prianka) for whom it was a “first snow.”
1. Garder plus du temps pour pratiquer le Français
I worked hard this semester on reading and writing French. I reached the point where I could do both without translating back to English, a proficiency goal I never thought I’d reach. Next year I’ll take the oral half of my French proficiency exam and (security clearance pending) have an internship in Paris this summer. Thus, my second resolution is to invest more time into practicing my conversation skills — by taking advantage of the language courses offered at Tufts’ Olin Center and carefully planning my spring classes around a French audit.
2. Get More Involved!
There’s never time to do everything that’s going on at Fletcher. I didn’t try too hard to do so while adjusting to the rigors of grad school. With my first semester over, my most important resolution for 2018 is to add more activities to my schedule: get more involved with clubs, attend more events, and buy a giant paper calendar to better plan my job and classwork around events.
With the fall semester behind us, the Admissions Blog Student Stories writers are starting to report in. Today we’ll hear from Mariya, who kept herself more than busy throughout the semester.
Hello readers! It has been a while since I last wrote. Let me take a moment to update you about my life at Fletcher. Traditional wisdom has it that your third semester at Fletcher is the hardest — this has certainly been true in my case.
For me this year has been about change. Physically, I moved into new, smaller apartment two streets over from my previous home, and acquired two lovely roommates: Riya, an old friend from last year; and Misaki, a first-year student from the Japanese Foreign Ministry. Academically, I decided to switch up my security and diplomatic history courses with finance and investment courses. Thanks to the flexibility of a Fletcher curriculum, doing so was no problem. And personally, I am making conscious efforts for self-care, including making time for mindfulness and spirituality. I am grateful to the Tufts Chaplaincy and Fletcher’s meditation room, which have facilitated this growth. Change is often stressful, but for me, it has been refreshing and beautiful.
Earlier this semester, Fletcher alumnus and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford came to campus for a talk. He said something that particularly resonated with me. “To be successful,” he said, “surround yourself with good people.” As I reflect on my fall semester, I feel grateful to be surrounded by good people who share my passions, challenge and motivate me, and make me appreciate the Fletcher community all the more.
Here’s a list of activities that have pushed me to new horizons — I hope it gives you a flavor for what a busy second-year MALD student looks like.
♦ Competing in a research challenge. Four peers and I submitted a 22-page report resulting from eight weeks of research, interviews, and model valuation for a medical device company as part of the Boston CFA Research Challenge. Thanks to Professor Patrick Schena and mentor Cameron for their guidance and expertise. We’re hoping to advance to finals like last year’s team!
♦ Serving as a TA. I welcomed the quintessential graduate student experience: serving as the teaching assistant for an undergraduate course called “Peace Through Entrepreneurship,” taught by Fletcher alumnus Steven Koltai. It has been an absolute pleasure working with and learning from both the professor and the highly motivated students. One of my favorite moments from class is teaching economic development theory.
♦ Staying hopeful. Former U.S. Ambassador to Spain and Andorra and now Dean of Tisch College Alan Solomont sat down with Fletcher’s State Department Fellows (Rangel, Pickering, and Payne) and shared his experiences and advice. His wisdom gave us hope to continue our chosen paths in diplomacy.
♦ Sharing ideas. I am so proud of the Fletcher Islamic Society for hosting a number of impactful events this fall, including an ISSP luncheon with Fletcher alumnus Pakistani Ambassador to the U.S. Aizaz Chaudhry, a guest lecture on the Palestinian Diaspora, a panel discussion about intersectionality and diversity in the Muslim community at the Gender Conference, and most recently, a community dialogue on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar.
♦ Interviewing leaders. What a privilege to sit down with Ambassador Chaudhry and with Sean Callahan, CEO of Catholic Relief Services, and interview them for The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs.
♦ Role playing. “Representing” the Chinese defense ministry, I helped my team devise a strategy to effectively respond to the hypothetical unfolding crisis on the Korean Peninsula for this year’s SIMULEX.
♦ Exchanging perspectives. My “U.S.-Russia Relations” course, which Skypes with students at MGIMO university in Moscow, has given me an appreciation for the Russian perspective on world affairs. It was great fun to moderate a panel on the “Instability in the Middle East and the Threat from Radical Jihadism” at the Fletcher-MGIMO Conference on U.S.-Russia Relations.
♦ Learning from professionals. In Professor Michele Malvesti’s “National Security Decision Making” course, it was an honor to be in the presence of high-profile individuals who came to class as guest speakers to share their knowledge with us. We had the privilege to learn from General Tony Thomas (Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command); Mr. Thomas Shankar (Assistant Washington Editor of the New York Times); The Honorable Derek Chollet (Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs); and The Honorable Nicholas Rasmussen (Director of the National Counterterrorism Center).
♦ Leading a workshop. Recognizing the importance of professionally marketing ideas, Pulkit and I led a “Blogging and Website Design Workshop” supported by the Ginn Library and the Murrow Center.
♦ Celebrating Diwali. Dressed in salwar kameez, saris, and kurtas, Fletcher folks came together to celebrate Diwali, Hindu festival of lights.
♦ Meeting a celebrity. It was inspiring to learn about Michael Dobbs’ path from Fletcher to the House of Lords. He was on campus for a two-week stint, teaching a leadership workshop, engaging in lectures and debates, and meeting students one-on-one.
♦ Cruising the Boston Harbor. Thanks to a classmate’s friend, about twenty of us enjoyed a BBQ lunch on a cruise boat in the Boston Harbor. What fun!
♦ Sharing my experiences. My summer in Bangkok affected me in more ways than one. After reflecting on my faith journey, I decided to share my poem “Return to Spirituality” at the Winter Recital in the Goddard Chapel earlier this month.
♦ Enjoying a home-cooked meal. There is no replacement for the intimacy and the deep connection that is shared when someone invites you to their home. Thanks to the lovely Airokhsh for hosting a delicious Afghan meal for 15 or so of her female friends and allowing us to take a break from the hustle and bustle of student life.
♦ Organizing a Trek. Much of my energy was devoted to organizing the first-ever Fletcher Pakistan Trek. Though the trip won’t, in the end, take place, the leadership team and I worked hard to raise funds, design a robust itinerary of meetings and outings, coordinate with local contacts, and work within the school guidelines to make this opportunity available for 10 classmates.
♦ Presenting in London. More details coming in the next post!
The final new Student Stories introduction comes from Akshobh, who started the MALD program in September after a journalism career. Akshobh is a regular presence in the Admissions Office, conducting interviews for us each Friday.
Leaving Singapore was excruciatingly hard!
I grew up in Bombay (now Mumbai), India and moved to Singapore fresh out of journalism school, knowing few people and precious little about the city state.
It then became home for seven amazing years, in two different journalism jobs, first with ESPN STAR Sports, and then as a business news reporter and producer with Channel NewsAsia (part of MediaCorp) the largest PAN-Asian English news broadcast channel in the region.
I often say that my career in journalism was a serendipitous affair.
I inadvertently stumbled into the auditions of ESPN STAR’s nationwide hunt for a presenter — through a show called Dream Job. The winner of the program would be offered a one-year contract as a sports presenter. I was short-listed in the final 18 among 100,000 applicants. As one of the final 18, I would go through several televised rounds of high-level sports quizzes and debates, conduct mock interviews, and host mock sports bulletins in front of an elite panel of judges. Each episode was broadcast on the network’s leading channel and beamed right into the homes of people across India.
Through the show, I realized I wanted to get into broadcast journalism and applied to journalism school. One of the internships I pursued was with the same host network — my boss happened to be one of the judges who had seen me on the show and he offered me an internship in Singapore. On completing a two-month internship, I was offered a full-time job for after my final semester in journalism school.
After a few years with a sports broadcast network, I segued to working for Channel NewsAsia as a business news reporter and producer.
I covered news pertaining to Singapore’s economy, and interviewed economists, entrepreneurs, business leaders, and policy makers across a gamut of industries. I soon realized that I was fortunate to meet, and get these fantastic perspectives, from industry leaders; however I myself would also need to develop these skills and build on domain expertise. The most conventional option was to look at business school after a few years of working, but I was more passionate about geopolitics, foreign policy, and diplomacy.
As a business reporter in Singapore, I saw the intersection between geopolitics and macroeconomic events. Decisions made by governments affected economies and the private sector. Hence I realized that a program at Fletcher would provide the best of both worlds. Like all prospective students, I cast my net wide, applying to a host of business and international affairs school. But the acceptance from Fletcher made all the difference. Not only was Fletcher the first to accept me, but the outreach from the Admissions Office, current students, and alumni was so welcoming and hospitable. My visit to campus as an admit sealed the deal. I understood just why Fletcher epitomizes community.
This was back in 2016, however a sudden family emergency — the prospect of applying for my permanent residence in Singapore — weighed down on my decision to start in fall of 2016. The only viable option was to request an unlikely deferral. And to my surprise back then, the Admissions Office understood my predicament and ensured that I was able to defer my admission to 2017.
Staying on for another year in Singapore provided by far my most fulfilling professional year. I moved to a new team at work, where I got to do longer and more in-depth business stories and travel to India to report on a country special episode.
In addition to my work, I was invited last year to give a TEDx talk at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore on journalism and was fortunate to moderate high-level panel discussions on media, technology, millennial employees, and smart cities across a range of events.
Then of course, the time came to be “shipping up to Boston.” Having lived for seven years on the equator, the only weather change I was used to was between rain or no rain. Moving from the tropical warmth of Southeast Asia to the blistering blizzards of New England was going to be a challenge. But if anything, the warmth of the Fletcher community will be enough to fight off any New England cold.
For me, I refrain from referring to “grad school” since I feel it homogenizes Fletcher with all other grad schools. Fletcher epitomizes diversity, like no other. The diversity isn’t just in terms of nationalities represented (though, the Hall of Flags shows that). The diversity at Fletcher is in terms of backgrounds, thought processes, and interests.
From human rights, to climate change, to gender studies, to energy, to diplomacy, to security studies, to understanding private sector merger & acquisition deals, there is truly something for everyone at Fletcher. I feel positively overwhelmed with how much there is going on here.
Within my first few weeks, I was already co-chair of the ASEAN Club, taking up roles at Tech@Fletcher, a member of the Fletcher Political Risk Group, getting involved with the Murrow Center’s first televised bulletin, an Admissions ambassador, and interviewing experts for the Fletcher Security Review.
There is no normal day at Fletcher, although some days would include lunch and a political communications workshop with one of Fletcher’s finest alums — Lord Michael Dobbs, followed by a special guest lecture in class from a four-star general talking about national security decisions.
Fletcher’s biggest asset is truly its community. From Fletcher’s Annual Faculty and Staff Waits On You Dinner, where faculty and staff don aprons and scurry along, carrying dishes to serve their students, to Fletcher Feasts, where students are randomly assigned to a host to break bread (sometimes literally) in the comfort of a home-cooked meal hosted by one of their own classmates, to when a professor opens up his house to students for a lazy Saturday afternoon picnic. Or the creativity of students at Fletcher to come up with an open-mic night for the melodic voices, the amateur guitarists, and even for intimate poems and stories.
One of my best memories pertaining to Fletcher reflects the community, and came before I enrolled. I met with Dr. Shashi Tharoor, F76, in Singapore, an Indian parliamentarian, former UN Diplomat and author — one of Fletcher’s best-known alumni. As busy as he is, he simply said that when a Fletcher connection reaches out, he makes time for them. That’s the meaning of community!
Hello! Namaste! Sawadika! Salaam alaikum! Bonjour! Konnichiwa! Ni Hao! Hola! Guten tag! Ola! Merhaba! Shalom!
A peek into the Fletcher world – a melting pot of cultures, languages, and much more! From me personally: Namaskara, vanakkam, or namaste!
To introduce myself, I am from India and I’m enrolled in the Master’s in Law program at Fletcher. A question that I have found difficult to answer since coming to Fletcher is exactly where in India I am from. I was brought up in Bangalore, spent five years in law school in Jodhpur, and after that a little more than four years working in Delhi. While Bangalore is always home, Delhi is my home away from home.
One of the goals that I set for myself at Fletcher was to challenge myself and to sign up for new experiences. Contributing to the Admissions Blog would be one of the new experiences that I am quite excited about.
Before Fletcher, I worked in the field of international trade at Ernst & Young and thereafter a law firm, Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan. As a lawyer working in the international trade team in both organizations, I worked primarily on trade remedy investigations. I was advising companies across the globe and the government of India on trade remedy matters. International trade was an area that interested me in law school and I gradually developed an affinity for it during my professional career. A couple of years into my work, I realized that getting a holistic understanding of this area of law was important for me, in order to fill the gaps in the experience that I had gained working in the field.
That need led me to apply to the LLM program at Fletcher. The run-up to deciding whether or not I was ready to take the plunge of going back to school was quite daunting. Was I ready to take a break for a year professionally, not have a paycheck come in at the end of the month, and make my first journey towards the west? Two months into my Fletcher journey and I’ve had no reasons to doubt my decision.
The courses have definitely been challenging on many levels and I realize that they have exposed me to areas and aspects that I never considered would be part of my journey. An interesting facet of the Fletcher program is that, though I’m in the LLM program, all my classes are with students from the other programs as well. So even when I’m in a law course, my peers are not necessarily lawyers, but rather, come from diverse backgrounds. Naturally, therefore, discussions haven’t focused only on the letter of the law, but also the other aspects that influence the law, such as politics, economics, and social context. That being said, every now and then I do find myself pining to argue about the difference between a “may” and “shall” or between a “probable,” “possible,” or “plausible” in a legal provision!
Over the next few blog entries, I hope to be able to give someone looking to understand Fletcher a bird’s eye view into the LLM program through my journey. However, I believe that a disclaimer would be important — as with any journey, there are many paths to the destination, and my path is just one of the routes!
If the last two months were anything to go by, I’m certain that the rest of the year at Fletcher is going to be intellectually stimulating. As a person who has a fondness for lists, I hope to cross off all my academic goals by the end of this journey. On a more personal note, I have a bucket list of sorts that I consider as important. It varies from buying a lottery ticket that the Boston billboards depict as having a high probability of success (and something that’s banned in most Indian states); to building a snowman, since this is going to be the first time that I’ll be in sub-freezing temperatures; to going to a baseball game and knowing more than “1, 2, 3 strikes, you’re out.” I have been told it’s a peculiar list, but for me it seems quite normal, considering I’m an international student.
I look forward to sharing, and to reporting on my endeavors in making headway on my bucket list!
In yesterday’s Thanksgiving reading, Mariya’s interview, we learned about the early life and Foreign Service career of Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond and his wife Dusadee Haymond. Today we’ll read about their experiences at Fletcher, where they met.
How did you meet at Fletcher?
Peter Haymond: Because of my background in Thailand, I sought out the Thai students at Fletcher when I first got there. The student I was probably closest to was from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as we got into the second year, he of course introduced me to the new crop of Thai students, and that’s when I met Dusadee for the first time. She was already a diplomat for Thailand. She assumed at the beginning that our graduating class years [Dusadee, F87 and Peter, F86] meant that I was older than her which led to, in the Thai way, showing respect for seniors. A few months in, she found out that wasn’t necessarily the case.
We dated the summer after my first year. Beginning from when I departed for Morocco (after completing my MALD), I was writing a weekly letter to this young woman here who I had met the previous year. We had three years of weekly exchange of the old airmail grams, folding in three parts. There was no email. Phones were prohibitively expensive. We met once a year at one place or another.
Dusadee Haymond: I remember we met in the cafeteria and he greeted me in Thai! But I just wanted to study so we were good friends for a year. Then we dated summer of 1986 and got married in 1989. For three years we were split, he wrote these beautiful, romantic letters. Usually my responses were complaints, but he was romantic.
PH: Our theme song was “Yesterday is Here” by Tom Waits.
Well today’s grey skies
Tomorrow is tears
You’ll have to wait ‘til yesterday’s here.
Mr. Haymond, what inspired you to complete a PhD after your MALD?
PH: I worked a bit for Dirck Stryker, [former] professor of economics who did a lot of development projects in Francophone Africa. The summer between my first and second years, I spent at a livestock project he was doing in Niger. When I was coming to the end of my MALD and casting about what to do next, he helped me learn about and apply for a Shell Fellowship, and found me a place to land with one of his collaborators in Morocco. So I went to Morocco for a year as a teaching assistant with this professor at l’Ecole Nationale d’Agriculture in the city of Meknes, and did research for what turned into a dissertation. It was on small-scale fruit and vegetable markets and the role of middlemen, because at the time there was a move in Morocco to try to take control of agricultural markets that were not already controlled by the government.
When I got tired of writing, I moved to Thailand to get married and worked two years — one year teaching English and economics at a private university and one year working in a financial firm — while she was continuing on with her diplomatic career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I was working on my dissertation in the evenings, which is why it took so long. And Dusadee kept reminding me that our agreement was she would only get married to someone with a PhD.
DH: Actually, I did that because his dad came around and asked me to make sure that Pete finished his PhD. So I set the condition for getting married.
Did you partake in activities at Fletcher?
DH: I didn’t attend parties much because I didn’t feel comfortable with my English. I did a lot of Thai cultural promotion — Thai nights, cook Thai food, dress up in Thai clothes, and teach others simple dances.
PH: I hung out with the Thai students a lot. Can’t say I was the most social person at Fletcher, but I was comfortable with the Thai students in general because of my background.
What were some of your favorite classes at Fletcher? Any particular class you recommend as a must-take?
PH: I was a development economics person and had a background in Asia, so I enjoyed those classes. Some of the classes and lectures that had the most impact on me were when I tried something that was out of my comfort zone, where I did diplomatic history. For example, a professor who had been there for 30 years gave a lecture on the Balkans and it was stunning. I enjoyed and sought out classes following my particular interests, but the ones that made the most memorable impression were often ones where I didn’t know much going in and I wasn’t expecting anything.
DH: I was majoring in diplomatic history. I remember a really good background course “History of U.S. Foreign Policy” taught by Professor Alan Henrickson. He is my favorite! For a foreign diplomat, it gave you the across-the-aisle viewpoint about why Americans think a certain way and do certain things.
Any final words?
DH: Remember, the connections you make at Fletcher last a lifetime.
If you’re off for a few days to celebrate Thanksgiving, you may find yourself with extra time to read, and when it comes to providing reading materials, I’m at your service. Back in the summer, Student Stories blogger Mariya interviewed the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, along with his wife (and fellow Fletcher graduate). The interview, which has been condensed slightly, will appear today and tomorrow on the blog.
It’s true what they say about the Fletcher community: it is everywhere. This past summer in Bangkok, I met a lot of Fletcher students and alumni of all ages. I’d like to share the story of two of them.
During the HR onboarding for my internship at the U.S. Embassy Bangkok, I was given a folder full of materials about Mission Thailand. As I skimmed over the bios of Ambassador Glyn Davies and Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) Peter Haymond, I was excited to learn that DCM Haymond is a Fletcher alum. My curiosity got the best of me and I decided I wanted to learn more about his time at Fletcher, but waited for a conversation opportunity to come up naturally. One week later, at the Gay Pride Reception at the Ambassador’s residence, I ran into a cheerful Thai woman called Ms. Dusadee. She gave me a hug, and told me she also graduated from Fletcher. I was touched by her warm gesture and became even more excited to meet the Fletcher alumni at Mission Thailand. It took me another five minutes of conversation to realize that Ms. Dusadee was the wife of DCM Haymond — and they met at Fletcher! I blurted out: “I would love to interview you and Mr. Haymond.” Ms. Dusadee smiled and replied, “Of course, of course, I’ll invite you for lunch at the Raj.”
I wasn’t sure what the “Raj” was, but I agreed. One month later, Ms. Dusadee stuck to her promise and invited me for lunch at their beautiful residence at the Rajadamri compound. In an exclusive interview, here is what I learned about the backgrounds, Fletcher years, and diplomatic careers of Mr. Haymond (MALD, F86 and PhD, F94) and Mrs. Haymond (MALD, F87).
Q: Tell me a little about your backgrounds.
Dusadee Haymond: I grew up in Bangkok and attended Mater Dei Catholic Girls School, just around the corner from the U.S. Embassy. My mom’s family came from the north of Thailand so I always associate myself with the north. I studied European history at Chulalongkorn University.
Peter Haymond: I was born in Seattle, where my dad was working at Boeing. We left there when I was three and continued on a series of moves including two and a half years in Thailand in the 1960s, which I call the “Oz of my childhood” — bright, exotic memories from [age] seven to nine. I went to middle and high school in Prince William County in northern Virginia, and then went on to undergraduate at Brigham Young University. My dad was originally from Utah and I had only visited relatives there, so it was a way to get in touch with my Mormon roots.
What was your path to Fletcher?
PH: While in Utah, I took two years off to do voluntary missionary service. They sent me back to Thailand, and that’s when I learned Thai. Coming back from that experience, I was studying economics and international relations. I was interested in something international. I was looking at law school, but in the end decided I wasn’t really interested in being a lawyer. The best lecturing professor I had during my undergraduate years was head of the IR department, and when I started to look at graduate programs, he called me in and told me about this graduate school for international affairs out in Boston. He had graduated from Fletcher some years earlier and offered to set me up with the dean who was coming out to make his circuits of various universities in the west. I had a talk with [former Admissions] Dean Charles Shane, who later took Dusadee in as a host family and whose daughter became one of Dusadee’s closest friends at Fletcher.
DH: I always wanted to study in America. But my family comes from middle class. Both my parents worked for the government. So I knew I had to look for scholarships and take a lot of exams. I attended Fletcher through the full-tuition Fulbright Peurifoy Scholarship. In return for my two years of study, I had to come back and work for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for twice as long — four years.
What led you to the Foreign Service in your respective countries?
PH: I had lived in Thailand twice, was interested in economics and international economic development. I like living in countries for extended periods of time to get a feel for the people and language and the culture, and the Foreign Service offered that while being able to represent the American people. For me, it’s been a great bargain.
DH: Destiny. Actually, I wanted to be a professor at a university. I was teaching on a contract when I heard about the foreign service exam from my friends, and I said, “why not?” I took it and passed it. Then I got the Fulbright to study at Fletcher, and I met Pete…so it was destiny. I’m willing to take an opportunity when it comes. I studied Western history in college, so from the start, I wanted to be a bridge that promotes understanding between East and West.
Because of my scholarship, I needed to come back and work for the Thai Foreign Service for four years. I almost finished my service but with a few months left, Pete was called to join the U.S. Foreign Service and we didn’t want to be separated for too long. We had a baby too, so we had to make a decision. So Pete paid back almost $3,000 for what I still owed the government, and I used to tease him that he bought me off. <chuckles>
PH: We had a big decision to make. We had to either go with her Ministry, where I was the dependent diplomatic spouse finding things to do, or go with the U.S. Ministry. Given they paid a little more, and our daughter had just been born, we decided to go with the U.S. side. That’s led to Dusadee’s 25 years as an eligible family member.
Ms. Dusadee, how has it been, being an eligible family member (EFM)?
DH: I have to say it is very tough for foreign service spouses, who tend to be drawn from the same economic, educational, professional level as the foreign service officers (FSO). It’s tough because for the FSO, you move into a different country and you already have a job waiting, there is a structure for you. But for the FSO spouse, you have to change the country and then find the new support system for the kids, pets, car, domestic assistance, etc. And then start looking for a job if there is something appropriate you’d like to do. But I have to say for myself, State Department has been very supportive. The Family Liaison Office in Washington does a great job taking care of family members, especially finding work for trailing spouses. My advice for the newer generation is to try a career that is portable like a teacher at an international school or a nurse. I have been teaching, working for the Embassy, learning new languages, and writing or translating work on my own. I’ve taught at Foreign Service Institute for two different stints and the International School in Korea. One thing that has certainly helped is my Fletcher education. I was once hired for a Foreign Service Officer-equivalent job at the State Department for two years working on trafficking-in-persons issues in Southeast Asia. Everyone looks at the Fletcher degree, and says “wow, she is qualified for an FSO job.” No questions asked.
Can you tell me more about your writing?
DH: The summer before I graduated from Chulalongkorn University, one of the magazines was looking for a writer and one of my professors knew I loved to write. So my friend and I started a travel magazine that is still in print called “Tour Around the World.” I wrote monthly travel articles for several years, but when I went to Fletcher, I didn’t have a lot of time for research-based writing. I decided the experience as a foreign student in the U.S. was interesting, so I started writing a monthly column on life as an American graduate student, everyday life, studying, trips around New England, entertainment. When I came back, the magazine compiled my columns and published them in a book which became one of the best sellers for that publisher at the time. The title of the book is in slang Thai, translates to “Studying in the States.”
I’ve also translated a number of books, including a short history of Laos by an Australian historian, Galileo’s Daughter, and a semi-illegal book in China called Will the Boat Sink the Water in which a journalist chronicles abuses of Chinese peasantry.
Was interracial marriage difficult?
DH: It was tough at the beginning. During the Vietnam War, there were a lot of GIs in Thailand. A lot of them married Thai wives. Unfortunately, many of these wives were not educated. When I came back to visit my family in Thailand, I had to wear my best clothes, wear good jewelry, and speak English to differentiate myself. Later on, it became more fashionable to marry Caucasians. Fortunately, my family realized Pete was a good man. Education was the most important thing for them, but still it was a risk for me to quit my good career and follow him. And Pete has proved himself. They’re all very proud of him.
PH: From my side of the family, they were excited and pleased because they had nothing but positive memories from Thailand from back in the 1960s.
How many languages do you speak?
PH: I speak Thai, Lao, Mandarin, and some French and very basic Korean. [On July 27, Mr. Haymond was one of four foreigners to receive the Thai Language Proficiency Award by the Ministry of Culture for excellent mastery of the language.]
DH: I speak Thai, Lao and English and I’ve studied French and Mandarin. My proudest moment in Beijing was when I went to a market and the vendor asked me “are you from Yunnan?” — a southwestern province where there are a lot of ethnic minorities. I was being taken not as a foreigner, but as a Chinese citizen of another ethnic group. I took it as a compliment! But you know, my Chinese is very street level because that’s what I used — bought groceries, used the taxi to get around.
Where have you served?
PH: We’ve served in various capacities in Washington; Chengdu and Beijing, China; Laos, Korea; and of course, Thailand. My favorite post was probably a three-year assignment as a narcotics affairs officer in Laos. It was the purest fun I’ve had in my entire Foreign Service career, traipsing around the mountains of northern Laos. I was cutting roads into remote mountain valleys, to which villages then migrated to access the outside. We built small schools, little clinics, little irrigation systems. It was very enjoyable, in part because you could see tangible positive results from the work!
What advice do you have for students pursuing a career in international affairs?
PH: Take the Foreign Service exam to have that option open. You may find something you’re more interested in, and if you find that, by all means take it. But the exam is a minimal investment in time to keep the option open that can provide a rewarding career.
The world needs dedicated, passionate, interested Americans engaging in public service, in NGO work, in business around the world. Most important is the day-to-day work, the Americans they meet in walks of life in capitals around the world. In that sense, students of Fletcher that go abroad will all be ambassadors of the United States because the U.S. will be interpreted as a place that produces people like them — for good or for ill. For someone who is meeting an American for the first time, those informal ambassadors are America.
Depends on what your stomach is for risk. I have utmost respect for people who are brave enough to jump from a job in one country to one in another on their own. The Foreign Service has worked for me because there’s regular change, but within structure. I’d add that the Fletcher background helps maintain a lot of options, particularly in international careers.
DH: If you’re interested in the Foreign Service, keep in mind that it’s a family unit. Always consult your spouse when deciding on a new assignment. Foreign Service is a family decision. It’s not his or her life, it’s our lives together.
The second of the new Student Stories bloggers is Gary, who started the PhD program in September. Today he shares the long road that he took to Fletcher.
My path to Fletcher started in 2012. I was living in the Denver, Colorado area and I’d just completed a two-year stint on the Olmsted Scholar Program, studying for a master’s degree and living in Taiwan with my family. It was time to pick my next big “stretch” goal. After doing some research, I discovered that one lucky Marine Corps officer per year was assigned to a fellowship at The Fletcher School. From the Fletcher website, it looked like a dream come true – immersed in international affairs, surrounded by students from all corners of the globe, making connections and building relationships. How could I make it happen? I knew that because of my rank and career timing, it would be a few years before I would be eligible for the fellowship, but in the meantime, I wanted to fill any gaps in my resume to make myself as competitive as possible. Reflecting back now, this sounds a lot like the advice that Fletcher’s Office of Career Services has provided to all the first-years as we navigate the excellent Professional Development Program, designed to prepare us for post-Fletcher careers just as we begin our studies here.
I reached out to that year’s Fletcher Marine Corps fellow to ask how I could maximize my competitiveness for the fellowship. He wrote back almost right away — his advice was just to keep on doing what I was doing. And make sure to rank Fletcher at the top of my list when it came time to complete my “dream sheet” ranking of schools and fellowships available for majors, the next military rank higher than mine at the time. While I was happy to have received a response so quickly, I was a little disappointed with the answer — was there really nothing I could do to prepare as I waited several years to become eligible?
In the summer of 2016, I had been promoted to the appropriate rank and it was time, at last, to fill out my “dream sheet.” Of all the excellent options, I ranked Fletcher #1, just as I had earlier been told to do. In the meantime, I had completed an additional master’s degree and been published in a few outlets to maximize my competitiveness. I put some thought into a rationale for why I should be chosen over all the other majors in the Marine Corps for this opportunity, wrote it up to accompany my dream sheet, and hit send. More waiting ensued.
The news came through in December 2016. I was in Okinawa, Japan, near the end of a three-year assignment. I logged into my email early one morning, and there they were, the results of the selection board – I was going to Fletcher! Later, I would be told that because of Fletcher’s foreign language proficiency requirement, the officer selected for the fellowship was the first one picked from the entire cohort of several hundred officers.
After the elation of being selected for Fletcher had subsided a bit, I analyzed the situation. Of course, I still needed to apply and gain admission. Typically, the Marine officer at Fletcher pursues the one-year mid-career MA degree program, which is ideal for obtaining a great master’s degree while keeping officers close to their normal military career track. This was the path taken by the Marine Corps’ most famous Fletcher alum, General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., current Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and things turned out well for him! However, coming into the fellowship I already had two master’s degrees and had recently begun looking for a way to get started on a PhD. I knew that Fletcher had a great PhD program, but by the time I received notice from the Marine Corps, the application deadline had already passed. I reached out to the Admissions team, and they agreed to allow me to submit a late PhD application. I turned my focus to producing a quality application and submitted it as soon as I could. I’d already been waiting years for this opportunity, but I would have to wait a little longer for the results. No matter what happened, I was bound to have a positive outcome: in either the MA or PhD program, I would be at Fletcher the following fall.
When the admissions result came back in March 2017, my unit was in the midst of a major theater military exercise involving many foreign partners in Japan and Korea. I had to read the notice a couple times to make sure my eyes were not playing tricks on me. Every time I looked at the letter, it still said the same thing: I had been admitted to the PhD program! I excitedly told my boss, who relayed the news to our organization’s commanding general and, during the busy ongoing exercise, I soon had a brief meeting with Lieutenant General Lawrence Nicholson, who congratulated me in person and told me to do great things, study hard, and make the Corps proud.
Now, as what I believe to be the first active-duty U.S. Marine Corps officer in Fletcher’s PhD program, I continue to work to define the administrative parameters associated with the opportunity. As I mentioned earlier, Marines typically get only one year at Fletcher — not enough time to make much headway on a PhD. But I was pleased by the flexibility and openness I found as I worked with key Marine Corps stakeholders. To my delight, all parties reached an agreement allowing me to have a second year at Fletcher. During the two years, I should be able to complete the three semesters of coursework required for external PhD admits and the written and oral comprehensive exams in my two concentration areas (International Security Studies and Pacific Asia), and defend a dissertation proposal — ambitious but not impossible to achieve, if planned and executed properly.
Unlike most other students writing on the Fletcher Admissions Blog, as a career military officer with over 18 years of service, I also come to Fletcher with my family, a wife and two sons. We’ve greatly enjoyed the few months we’ve had in the Boston area since moving here in July and are looking forward to taking advantage of the diverse range of opportunities and activities in our home community of Arlington and in the surrounding towns, cities, and states. One simple thing we enjoyed over the summer was easy access to great biking on the Minuteman Bikeway. Now fall’s brilliant foliage and crisp, cool morning air is a great treat that we haven’t always been able to enjoy as we have moved between Hawaii, California, Taiwan, Colorado, Japan, and now Massachusetts.
Archives by Date
TagsApplication Boston Boston Marathon Business competitions Capstone Career CIERP Class of 2010 Coffee Hours Commencement Community Conferences Cool stuff! deadlines Dean Stavridis Dear Ariel decisions DME Early Notification Essays Faculty Spotlight First-Year Alumni Five-Year Updates Fletcher couples Fletcher Forum Ginn Library GRE IBGC Internships Interview ISSP LLM MIB OCS On the road Outside the classroom Paying for Grad School PhD Professors suggest Reading Days Recommendations Roxanne Social List Student Stories waitlist